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Building a US Army for ‘Nam

With Shane Lindley
It all started one rainy day back in April. I was enjoying the latest podcast for No Dice No Glory on my daily commute to work and listening to my good friend, Tom Mullane espouse the latest version of Flames of War: Nam. Little did I know that one hour and twenty-six minutes later, it would be another project that I had become inspired to undertake.

A few texts here, and a bit of Googling there and the plan was set. I would be putting together the American force, while Tom would seek a more enlightened Communist path, building an absolute horde of PAVN.

This was not my first foray “In Country”. A few years ago I took advantage of Battlefront’s 40% off sale on the Vietnam model range, and had bought small starter forces for both PAVN and Americans (Because, Huey’s!), but suffering from another case of shiny model syndrome, meant they had sat waiting on the shelf until their moment for battle came around. That time was now, but first I’d have to establish what other models I needed to properly field my army.

Being something of a wargames butterfly, I knew I wanted a force that was varied, as well as fitting in with the picture of a typical American company in Vietnam that I had envisioned. This meant I would take an infantry company at the core of my army. I couldn’t resist bringing them to the fight in Huey’s, so I took a few helicopters to transport them too.

One of my favorite scenes in Full Metal Jacket is the infantry advancing on the city using the tanks as cover. I wanted enough armor in my list to make a difference, but not so much that it became the central theme of my list, so I opted for three Sheridan’s. With a few different tank options to consider, they seemed the most tactically flexible to me – well armed but cost-effective from a points value perspective. I’d envisioned using them as a handy threat to keep in reserve, hoping they could use their speed to get to where the action is fast

Until the Sheridan’s arrived, however, the infantry would have to rely on calling in artillery support when coming into enemy contact. This would come in the form of a squad of mortars and a battery of 3 105mm gun pieces. I knew I’d be facing large amounts of enemy infantry and having the ability to drop a couple of artillery templates on them would be an effective countermeasure.

Continuing to enjoy the benefits of Free World firepower, I rounded out my helicopter contingent with a couple of gunships. I already had a Hog, which I would field as a Gatling-armed copter, then added another Cobra.

The final piece of air support I took was a pair of Skyhawks. I love the models, and again, chose them because I find them emblematic of the Vietnam War. I just hoped that I’d have better luck with them than my German Stuka dive-bombers in Mid-War!

With the army selection done, and models ordered (taking advantage of Battlefront’s great promotional offer!) it was time to start painting. With such a varied force, choosing which historical division to base them on was a tough decision – I did my research and pondered on whether I wanted to field the army as Black Horse, Electric Strawberry or even something else. Eventually I decided to let visual aesthetic win over historical accuracy and made a mixture, basing units in a way that would represent a truly combined arms force.

Some people may frown at this, but if I embark on a new project that I am determined to see through to completion, I make myself a chart that tracks various stages of progress. You can see an example of the one I used to build this army, below. I find that not only does breaking the process down into manageable chunks make progress seem more achievable, but also checking a box off each time I complete a milestone becomes a satisfying reward unto itself. It may not be for everyone, and I’m sure it seems quite a rigid process to some, but I do find the results beneficial.

The infantry were the most complex minis to paint – who knew adding three different colors of blobs onto a hundred or so helmets would take so long! The extra time it took was certainly worth it and I found the final result rewarding. The sculpting is incredibly detailed. As I moved through the painting line, I was delighted to see little details on the webbing, and the quality of the guns.

Special mention has to go to the Special Forces unit that I included – there were only 12 of them so I decided to try something a little special that I’ve never attempted before on a mini of this scale. Looking at a lot of historical images for reference, I noticed that “the men with green faces” had noticeably defined eyes, so I attempted to paint them – a task certainly not for the faint of heart or shaky of hand! The results were mixed, but I got a couple to look good, and they all pass the three-feet test on the tabletop!

Clothes may make the man, but a good base makes the miniature. With everything painted, and the infantry attached to their bases, I set about adding textured pumice gel to give a dirt effect, followed by a custom flock recipe I concocted specifically for the occasion. Having amassed a wide collection of flock, static grasses and ground texture over the years, I like to create my own mix for new armies, so I mixed four different types together, and applied it liberally, followed by some judiciously placed tufts.

Starting the project in February and continuing at a fairly relaxed pace of a few nights every week, I’ve just been able to finish the project by the beginning of the summer – roughly five months. The miniatures are now ready to play their first game against Tom’s PAVN. Although, the idea of painting my own Vietnamese force does sound appealing. And I do think some APC’s would be a good addition. On to the next project!